Talent Show!

This week we had our talent show! It turned out great and was the highlight of my week.  We had all kinds of talent, from singing, steppin’, piano, recorder, guitar you name it we had it!  We even had a little Michael Jackson.  The kids at my school are so talented and it was a great way for them to show it off.  We had a big parent turn out.

This was my after school chorus’ debut!  They did a great job with my rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” turned into “Just Read” and “Everyone Needs a Hero” from the Music Express magazines.  We have another performance coming up in April. This is one for an EOG energizer.  If you have any ideas of great songs please let me know 😀

The talent show was dedicated in memory of the little girl who died last weekend. One of her friends sang a song in memory of her and there was a slide show of pictures.  It was a great way to celebrate her life.


An Unsettling Week

The post I was planning to write last weekend was supposed to say that not much has been going on.  It was also supposed to say things were going well and that my students were being great.  Well, my students are great, but this week was everything BUT what I was planning on writing last weekend. (but sadly never got around to doing) This post does not have much to do with the actual teaching of music, but something I just really want to put out there in the internet cloud of millions of blogs and opinions.

The school I teach at is going through restructuring because of low test scores.  This is where they remove the principal and replace at least half of the teachers.  I personally think my job will be okay, because I do not teach a tested subject, but we all know that may not be the case.  It saddens me for the children at my school to have half of the staff replaced.  They have enough inconsistencies in their life and this just adds one more.  Yes, our test scores must come up, but I wish their was another way of making this happen.

Secondly, I had my first student run out of my classroom. (No, this is not as serious as the first point of discussion or the last).  In the middle of teaching 3rd grade and playing boom whackers, I had a student get up and run out.  I really thought everyone was having fun and kids were giggling and laughing because of what we were singing (we were learning about high notes vs. low notes and experiencing it with our voices and the whackers and practicing rhythms) and one of my students took it the wrong way and thought the kids were laughing at him and took off.  I had to call in a person from the office to talk with him and get him to come back to class.  I really do not know what I could have done differently to avoid this.  Students were laughing at themselves and laughing through the whole demonstration, so I truly believe they were not singling anyone out.

Lastly, I was asked on Thursday what the most difficult part of teaching was and at the moment my answer was keeping everyone engaged as much as possible, because it requires using many styles of teaching at once and as a first year teacher I am still developing my “bag of tricks”.  Then Friday happened.  I now believe the most difficult part of teaching is losing a student.  A students from my school died on Friday.  It was very unexpected.  I still do not think I have come to complete realization that it has happened.  I have taught this student every week since August and am in complete shock.  I am trying to think of what to do next week during music class when I have that class.  I would like to do something to help the healing begin with her classmates.  As a first year teacher I never thought about losing a student, I guess it happens more often then I think, but it was something I was never prepared for.

So, as I said this post was supposed to be about how everything was going okay and nothing much has changed, but as you can see in the past week things have drastically changed.

Music in Our Schools Month!

Bulletin Board Idea!  I am lucky enough to have a bulletin board right out side of my classroom, that I get to decorate. So, in order to make a big deal of Music in Our Schools Month, I am going to adorn it with students playing music 😀

For this up coming month, I am making a bulletin board with picture of my students doing musical things.  It took a week of me taking pictures during my lessons of students singing, playing hand drums, dancing, etc… in order to have enough pictures for a bulletin board.  I am also using pictures from previous performances and all-county chorus. Along with the pictures, I am also putting some of my favorite ‘musical’ quotes. I am really excited to see what the students and other teachers think of it. (It is a way to showcase what we do!)

Another Idea:

During student teaching, my cooperating teacher had students play and sing during lunch time.  I am trying to get this approved at my school (fingers crossed). The students loved it during student teaching, and it gave me a chance to know which students were doing extra activities involving music.  Thus, getting to know your students a little more. We all know the way to reach students is showing some sort of interest in the things they do.

If you have any ideas please post them!  Have a great week 😀

A full week…

What a long week!  This has been such an exciting week.  Four of my students were able to participate in all-county chorus, my second graders gave a performance, and I was observed by my mentor.

During all-county chorus it was so nice to talk to others who are like me!  Being at a school where, like most specialist, I am the only one who teaches what I teach, it is sometimes difficult to get the help you need.  Yes, the people at my school are great and will listen and let me bounce ideas off of them, but if you want to know something about orff or making the choir better they aren’t the people to ask.  This is partly why I start this blog, to give other music teachers a chance to make connections and talk about “music” things

I learned that there is a whole lot about singing I do not know! So in order to fix this problem I am going to do peer observations to learn more. I should start them in a few weeks. I will let you know how it goes.  I believe this is the best way to learn, so if there is something you need help with, go watch a peer do it! and share the results.

My second grade students did such a wonderful job performing.  They were very confident during the practice and projecting, then they got on the stage for the performance and I think they got a bit scared. I could still hear them, but their little faces looked very nervous.  Lucky for them they get another chance next Friday.  Now, that they have experienced what it is like on stage in front of an audience, I know they will be fine next Friday 😀

Observations, I don’t have much to say about this one.  It went well, but I don’t know my mentor enough to know what her thoughts will be on it.  I have my post observation conference next week, so I guess I will know then.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Don’t forget to ‘Wash your hands’

I love free resources! and I know you will love this one 😀 I was surfing the web at work (don’t tell anyone) and I came across this amazing song, that teaches children the importance of washing their hands.  The song is put to the familiar tune of “Single Ladies’  and is called “Soap and water”.  The best part about it is that the children think it is Beyonce! so, they automatically love it.

After I found the song, I immediately made copies for all of the Kindergarten teachers and at the end of the day went into one of their classrooms and sang it with them!  Within ten minutes most of the students knew most of the words! We were practicing singing, dance moves, and most importantly how to wash our hands.  With all of the germs floating around out there, this is a great way to make washing hands a cool thing to do! I hope you enjoy it 😀

Technology and Low Income Learners

I received the Teaching Music magazine in the mail today and sat down to flip through it and found an interesting article about technology. After reading the article,”Making the Tech Connection”, I sat and thought about lower income students and how much technology benefits them.  Okay, some of you are wondering where I am going with this. Keep reading.

The common assumption is that students are crawling in technology, they have iPods, computers, game systems, cell phones, etc… but, do they?  In many schools with students from lower income households,  technology could be intimidating and therefore cause education to be  intimidating.  Now, you are thinking that all students need to learn technology and therefore we should teach it if they don’t have the means to learn it at home.  Of course we should! except when? between math, reading, writing, science, social studies, MUSIC…the list goes on and on!

We assume students come to us knowing the basics of technology, but in fact many of them do not.  Of course, teacher led technology is fine, but asking some students to click a mouse to start a timer(see below), type a word, or scroll down a page could be a stressful event. They have had very little experience with a computer, much less a laptop and are just hoping not to be made fun of by the rest of the class if they mess up.  Of course, to us this sounds very elementary.

Another instance of “wasted” technology.  We have school web pages that host our personal classroom webpage that should be an excellent learning tool, but because many of our students do not have internet access it goes unused and ignored.  I should be able to use it to communicate and give students extra activities to do at home, but many students are unable to access, navigate, or work a computer.

I worry that some teachers think it is so important to have technology that they forget what they started off to teach. For music education, music is still the “it” that we should be teaching.  I feel like we should be aware of how much technology our students have been introduced to, before using the “cool” new computer program we have found.  Before making the plunge into technology, I feel we should ask ourselves if it will be more intimidating or more helpful to our students.

Music Advocacy

I have been caught up in my own teaching and trying to make it through my first year (successfully!)  that I almost forgot about advocacy.  That is until I found this blog, it had a video on it that nearly brought me to tears.  It is why we do what we do.  We must not forget about the children, the ones who do receive music (from us!) and those who are going with out. Every child deserves a music education and I am sure if you are reading my blog you agree!  If not, maybe watching this video will help. El Sistema, this is truly a video that will rekindle your love for music and for teaching!

Recorders: This worked for me!

I  have been trying different ways to get more one on one time with students who are learning to play recorder.  We all know how it is to listen to 25 recorders at once, especially when they are first beginning 😀 So, I decided I need to do something.  I also believe it is important for students to know how to read the notes on the treble clef.  Well, I think I have found the way! I begin my class with a simple warm up (2 min tops) to get everyone playing.  Then we break off in groups!  I usually have four groups going at once!  When I first began doing this I thought, “I really hope this doesn’t back fire!”  and so far it hasn’t! My four stations:  1. playing recorder with me 2. Musician of the month 3. Worksheets 4. treble clef twister.

I will explain these further along, but first (How do you do all this and not lose track of time?) I keep track of time with an online stop watch.  There are a ton of them out there, so just google and choose the one you like the best! Or you could by a kitchen timer.  I put my laptop at the table with the worksheets. I choose one person out of each group who I can trust and let them operate it.  I have been splitting my class into 5 min. segments.

Now, to the activities!  First there is playing recorder with me.  That is pretty self-explanatory.  I usually have a song that the class is working on.   I put it up with the projector and we practice playing it.  This gives me time to work with 5 or 6 students at a time.  I can work on the common problems of students not covering wholes, blowing to hard, etc…

The second activity is Musician(s)/composer(s) of the month.  I have a bulletin board with posters and articles of different musicians.  When the group goes to this station, they are to read about the musician and write one fact (and it can’t be the same as their neighbor).  They write this on one sheet of paper, so I should have 5 or 6 facts per group.

Activity number three: Worksheets.  This is often their least favorite (which is why I put the clock here, they love the clock), but it is a way that I can individually assess.  I have them do worksheets that involve counting rhythms, writing note names, musical terms etc… Here are some great websites for free worksheets:



Lastly, Treble Clef twister!  I learned this game from an old band director and thought it was awesome!  Here is how it works:  You need some type of tape (duct tape, painters tape, etc..)  This is used to make the GIANT staff on the floor. You will also need a square piece of card board and a round fastener.  This is to make the spinner.  Once you have made everything then you play, just as you are to play twister!  It’s a simple game.  Choose one person to be the spinner and the other people play.  (Of course, make sure to choose a different spinner person every week so everyone gets a chance to play)  This section tends to get a little noisy so to make it more difficult I make it “Silent” twister.  If you talk or fall you are out! Once they are out they come and join group one in making music on the recorder.

Now, just to let you know I did not start all these groups at once!  I began slowly by have two groups, then built it up to four groups.  It took about two months to have everything going at once and I am still working on a few classes.  If you decide to try it out, please let me know how it works for you.  Also, if you have any other great ideas please share them!

Questions:For all, not just Elementary teachers.

1. How do you remember all of the students names?  I have been teaching for five months and I am still having a hard time with this. Of course, learning the names of the “problem” children are easy, followed by learning the kids who always know the answers! but what about the kids who seem to fall in the gap.  Any pointers?

2. Does anyone have any suggestions on spring musicals for pre-k to 2nd?  Maybe something that won’t take forever to learn?

3. Dealing with parents, I have had to do this a few times with great success( for problems), but how do you get parents involved?  What kind of activities do you have them do for your music program?

4. If you have any other tips or questions just list them! I am sure others would like to read them and may have some answers as well 😀

Teaching Kinders!

I use the Spotlight on Music text books at my school.  They are great!  I used them during student teaching and throughout the year, so I am getting used to them more and more.  I use them more for the lower grades (k-3 sometimes 4).  It is harder to keep the 5th graders attention with them.  The songs are great and they provide a lot of pre-made lessons.  One lesson I really enjoyed was the lesson on rhythm:Kindergarten book, Unit 4, Lesson 3.

I wanted my students to be able to switch back and forth between steady beat and rhythm multiple times.  My students came in my classroom and we stood in a circle.  The song is about bouncing a ball, so I had each of my students pretend to bounce a ball to the steady beat.  Then, I picked up a real ball and started passing it around the circle to the steady beat  (When the students began passing to slowly or to fast, I had the students whisper: pass, pass, pass… until we were on the beat again).  Once I decided the students were able to pass on the steady beat proficiently we sat down.  Each student then received their own ball.  I taught them to sing the song using movements with the ball.  Once they were able to sing the song from memory we began exploring the big book(page 27).  We looked at the beat bars and observed they all looked the same.  Then we looked at the balls above it and observed they were different heights and some of the bars had two balls over the bar.  I pointed to the bars and sang and pointed to the balls and sang.  Then to see if the students could play the rhythm I passed out rhythm sticks and played the “rhythm of the words”.  They watched me first, then we two fingered clapped the rhythm and then finally added the sticks (only few at a time).  At the end when I was sure each student could play the rhythm we changed back to steady beat!  To my surprise they were able to do without a problem! Then we switched back to rhythm.  Once again, they did it!  So, to make it more difficult I played the steady beat on a hand drum while they played the rhythm of the words.  They did a great job 😀  We moved on and did some of the other activities in this lesson, but this was my favorite!